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Israeli Settlements and Outposts in the West Bank, January 2002 - History and Map

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 Israeli Settlements and Outposts in the West Bank to January 2002

Following the Six Day war, the Israeli government originally declared that it was ready to return all of the territories except Jerusalem in return for peace treaties with its Arab neighbors. However, religious and nationalist groups began agitating for annexation and settlement of areas in the West Bank and Golan heights. An increasing number of settlements were established as it became evident that Arab states would not negotiate with Israel. A decisive turning point was the Khartoum Arab summit, in August and September of 1967, which seemed to shut the door on the possibility of negotiations with Israel or recognition of Israel in any form. However, following a peace treaty with Egypt, Israel returned all of the territory it had conquered from Egypt, and evacuated settlements in the Sinai peninsula, including Yamit. UN Resolution 242 requires that Israel withdraw from territories conquered in the 6-day war in return for negotiated peace, but it does not specify all territories.

Given the uncertain state of the territories, and the continued Arab intransigence regarding peace, the settler movement grew in strength. Part of the push for settlement was ideological. Orthodox Jews believe that God promised the land to them. They had formed the Gush Emunim faction, mostly based on zealots within the National religious party. The Likud party, which is the ideological offspring of the Herut movement, asserted that all of 1917 Palestine, including Jordan, belongs to the Jews by right, and was unjustly divided by the British. Together with others, these ideologies formed the core of a "Greater Israel" movement. All factions believed that it was important to establish "facts on the ground" (a poor literal translation of the Hebrew expression for "Fait Accompli"). That is, to establish areas of Jewish settlement which would afterwards be the basis for negotiation of borders. This conviction grew from the historical experience, that the UN Partition plan of 1947 had awarded Israel territories on the basis of those areas that had large concentrations of Jews. Its relevance to the present situation is not clear.

Settlements were established in the Golan Heights conquered from Syria, including Gamla and Katzrin, in Sinai, taken from Egypt, including villages or resorts at Sharm as Shaikh, Ofir and Yamit, and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in and around areas of Jerusalem that were conquered and annexed to Jewish Jerusalem. In a few cases, the settlements revived Jewish communities that had existed prior to 1948: in the old city of Jerusalem, in Hebron, in Gush Etzion near Hebron, and north of Jerusalem at Neve Ya'akov and Atarot. The Hebron and Jerusalem Jewish communities had existed for hundreds of years prior to 1948. The area of the West Bank north of Jerusalem was termed Samaria by the Israeli government, and the area in the south, Judea, according to the ancient biblical names.

At first, other than the Jerusalem area, settlements were built mostly in relatively unpopulated areas. In the West Bank, a line of settlements was establish in the desert north around and north of Jericho "The back of the mountain" ridge  that runs along the West Bank or Jordan Valley Settlements. However, when the right-wing Likud party came to power in 1977, settlement building began in earnest in the West Bank, which right-wing Zionist ideology claimed as part of Israel. A large city, Ariel, was built deep in Palestinian territory and the trans-Samaria highway was created to connect it with Israel. At present (2002) there are about 210,00 Jews living in the West Bank, a small number in Gaza, and another 200,000 or so Jews living in areas of Jerusalem and environs annexed in 1967.

Jerusalem was a subject of national pride and security concerns for Israel. The city had been subject to a prolonged siege during the 1948 War of Independence, and had been divided by barbed-wire fences between 1948 and 1949. The Israel government repopulated the Jewish quarter of the Old City with Jewish settlers, and built a number of settlements in the West bank along the former border with the Jerusalem corridor (the area leading into Jerusalem from Tel Aviv). It also built the new town of Ma'ale Adumim to the east of Jerusalem to provide a protective back.

In Hebron, a small group of extremists began moving into lands that had once been occupied by Jews and were owned by Jews, in the heart of the city, and the Israeli government eventually recognized this illegal settlement, in addition to the town of Qiriat Arba built outside the city of Hebron.

The location of some settlement blocks is explained or rationalized by the need to guard aquifers in the West Bank that provide water for Israeli cities including Tel Aviv. (see map)

An Israeli source, Haim Gvirtman,  (1997? Updated 2001) divides the West Bank Settlements into areas as follows: (dates of  population estimates are not given):

Greater Jerusalem: This includes Gush Etzion, the city of Ma’aleh Adumim, the local authorities of Givat Zeev, Betar Ilit, Efrat, and Har-Adar, and additional rural settlements belonging to the Benjamin regional council. There are a total of 20 settlements in Greater Jerusalem, containing a total population of 52,000.

West Samaria: This includes the local authorities of Ariel, Emmanuel, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Elkana, Oranit, Alfei Menashe, and additional rural settlements belonging to the Samaria Regional Council. West Samaria contains a total of 18 settlements, with a total population of 44,000.

West Benjamin: This includes the local authorities of Kiryat Sefer and Beit Arieh, and additional rural settlements belonging to the Benjamin Regional Council. There are a total of 12 settlements in West Benjamin, with a total population of 14,000.

The Jordan Valley and Judean Desert: This includes the Ma’aleh Efrayim local authority, and additional settlements belonging to the Jordan Valley, Megilot, Benjamin, and South Mt. Hebron Regional Councils. It consists of a total of 44 settlements with a total population of 17,000.

The Reyhan-Dotan Bloc: This lies in northern Samaria adjacent to the Green Line (by Wadi ‘Ara) and includes five settlements with a total population of 1,500.

The ‘Einav-Sal’it Bloc: This lies in northwest Samaria adjacent to the Green Line (near Netania) and includes four settlements with a population of 2,000.

The Eshkolot-Shim’a Bloc: This lies in southern Judea next to the Green Line (near Beer Sheva and ‘Arad) and includes five settlements with a population of 1,000.

Initially, in most cases, the land on which settlements were built was unoccupied or, as in the case of Hebron and Gush Etzion, was owned by Jews prior to 1948. However, much of the land was apparently owned by Palestinians, and was transferred to Israeli government  ownership through a regulation requiring re-registration of land, which was impossible for most Palestinians. Those who did not register, lost their title.

Beginning in 1987, a revolt called the Intifadeh began in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Following the Gulf war, US pressure, the ongoing break up of the USSR and favorable international opinion made it possible to convene negotiations toward settlement of the Palestinian problem.  In 1993 and 1995, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles and The Oslo Interim Agreement. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. The peace process with the Palestinians led to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and most cities and towns of the West Bank by early 1996 (Map), though Israel had made no commitment to withdraw from all the territories. As the Israelis withdrew, Palestinians took control of these areas. About 97% of the Palestinians in these areas were nominally under Palestinian rule, but the area controlled by the Palestine National Authority amounted to about 8% of the land. In January 1996, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank elected a legislature controlled by the Fatah faction, with Yasser Arafat as Chairman (titled "Rais" - "President" by the Palestinians) to administer these areas.

However, the territory administered by the Palestinian Authority was divided into noncontiguous areas - Area A, under full Palestinian control, Area B, in which Israel had control over security, and Area C, consisting all of the areas of the occupied territories from which Israel had not withdrawn. The Israelis built a system of bypass roads that allowed settlers to travel between Israel and the different settlements in relative safety, avoiding ambushes by Palestinians. These roads often encroached upon inhabited Palestinian areas, and areas under cultivation. Many dunam of olive trees, the means of livelihood of Palestinians were destroyed to build the roads.  to allow expansion of settlements in populated areas,  by settler vandalism, and in some cases, because the olive trees had served as cover for Palestinian terrorists.

Negotiations for a final settlement under the Oslo agreements ended in deadlock July, 2000. Palestinians insisted that refugees should have the right to return to Israel, which would produce an Arab majority in Israel. Israel insisted on annexing key portions of the Palestinian areas and on leaving most settlements intact, and offered only a limited form of Palestinian statehood. Palestinian violence erupted on September 28, 2000, triggered by a visit of Ariel Sharon to the temple mount in Jerusalem, which is also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque holy to Muslims. In negotiations at Taba, Palestinians rejected a settlement offer mediated by President Clinton, and shortly thereafter, Israeli PM Barak, who had furthered the peace process, was voted out of office and replaced by a right wing government headed by Ariel Sharon.

After the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, the checkpoints were used by Israel as a means of controlling the movement of terrorists. This created a virtual siege in each of the isolated Palestinian areas and towns, resulting in great hardship for civilians.

Though Israelis stopped building new settlements following the Oslo agreements, after the assassination of PM Yizhak Rabin in November 1995, existing settlements were strengthened. From time to time, after Palestinian terror attacks or on other occasions, settlers established new illegal "outposts," sometimes unmanned at first, that may initially have consisted of a few trailers. With time, these outposts usually assumed the characteristics of permanent towns. By January 2002, there were a considerable number of these illegal outposts, as shown in the map at right. The government made half-hearted attempts to eliminate these outposts, which created a security burden for the IDF. In a few cases, the IDF clashed with settlers. Illegal outposts that were removed with great fanfare were usually rebuilt quietly afterwards. 

In November of 2002, Palestinian snipers opened fire on soldiers who had been guarding Israelis who had gone to pray in the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron, killing several soldiers and civilian guards who had rushed to their aid. PM Ariel Sharon decided that the Jewish settlement of Hebron would be connected to the nearby Qiriat Arba settlement (K. Arba on the map) by a continuous "corridor" (see map) and ordered that houses of Palestinians along the route should be demolished. This issue is presently unresolved, as rights groups have gone to the Israeli High Court of Justice in order to prevent the house demolitions (December 2002)

Legal and International Status - The West Bank and Gaza, with the exception of Jerusalem, were not annexed to Israel. Unlike the Golan Heights or Sinai, these areas did not belong to a sovereign nation whose sovereignty was recognized de jure (by law) after 1948. They were slated to be part of the Palestinian state to be created by the UN Partition plan of 1947, but that state never came into being. They were annexed by Jordan after the Israeli war and the annexation was given de facto recognition by most European states, but in the absence of a negotiated peace treaty, it was not recognized by law. Therefore, the Israeli government considers that the territories are not "occupied," land of a previous sovereign, and that the regulations of the Geneva Convention of 1949 do not apply to the West bank and Gaza Strip. These regulations prohibit confiscation of land for purposes other than security. In practice however, most of the world considers that the territories are occupied and that the settlements are illegal. The Israeli high court however, treats the West Bank and Gaza strip as if human rights provisions relating to occupied territories do apply. The United States considers that the settlements are an "obstacle to peace" but has never taken a stand on their legality.

Ami Isseroff

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Map of Israeli Settlements and Outposts in the West Bank

Adapted from Foundation for Middle East Peace

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